What’s for Supper? - Probably the last thing a homeschooling parent wants to be wondering at 4:00 pm every day. It can be discouraging to try to muster the energy to figure out dinner after a full day of instructing young ones.
I have become familiar with several ways of dealing with this issue in our home. I use some of them all of the time and all of them some of the time, whenever and however they work for me.
• The Crockpot: A valuable tool that allows you to “set it and forget it”. When dinner is done by 10 am, the rest of the day seems to go so smoothly. There is no better feeling than realizing, at the dreaded 4 pm hour, that “What’s for dinner?” was answered and dealt with six hours previous. I use this option on days when we have activities that will have us out of the house until dinnertime or on days when I have a big project planned at home.
• Meal Planning, Part A: Having a standing general menu for the week is a true timesaver when it comes to planning actual menus and shopping lists for the week. For example, our family’s standing menu goes like this:
o Sunday: Fish
o Monday: Pasta or Beans & Rice
o Tuesday: Crockpot meal
o Wednesday: Beef
o Thursday: Leftovers OR frozen pizza
o Friday: Chicken
o Saturday: Soup, sandwiches or takeout
This basic guideline allows me to simple plug in recipes, and my family can rely on a certain schedule. You can adjust this for your food preferences, schedule, and budget.
• Meal Planning, Part B: Choose one day a week to be the day you plug in specific recipes to your standing menu. Also, make the grocery list that day. In our family, my recipe planning day is Thursday, as I tend to grocery shop on Friday or Monday. Meal planning pays off in so many ways. I find that I don’t always stick to my plan and switch days around or find a recipe feeds us for more days than I expected, but it really does relieve stress because I know I’ve thought through the week and have some dinners planned out.
• Freezer Meals: I have friends who do a monthly freezer cooking day. They buy ingredients for six different recipes, tripling those recipes, and spend the day assembling. They end up with 18 dinners in the deep freeze: amazing! A variation on this idea is simply to make double of one of your weekly dinners, putting one meal a week in the freezer for a day when you’ll need it.
• Have your “Go-to” Meal ingredients handy: Quite simply, know what meals are your family’s favorites, make sure you stock those ingredients, and you have backup!
• Use Carefully Chosen Convenience Foods: I try to avoid processed meals, but there is nothing wrong with an occasional frozen pizza (see my standing menu above) or some macaroni & cheese to bail you out of dinnertime disaster! Sometimes mom’s mental health is worth one “not from scratch” meal.
In short, providing a dinner for your family every single night can be a daunting task. It’s a balance of planning, preparing, evaluating options & possibilities, factoring in preferences and health choices, and, of course, following through. The rewards are great for families who sit down to dinner together, so I encourage you to take time to set up a schedule that works for you and to experiment with ways to streamline the whole process. Good luck!